NYC - It's Child's Play

Children and city breaks - it's not a winning combination. Unless you plan carefully and choose your destination well, says Kate Simon

'So, did you like New York?" (I'm talking to my seven-year-old son, Quincy.) "Whaaaaht?" he drawls.

"Did you like New York?" I repeat.

"Yes, I loved it," he replies, yet for all its implied emotion the delivery is just as monotonous.

"Why?" I ask. Silence.

"Name two things you liked about it," chips in Dad.

"It was, just, fun."

"But what did you like?" I'm pushing it now.

"I liked the big buildings."

"Why?"

"They were really big - and sharp."

"What about the park?"

"Oh, yeah."

"What about that toy shop?"

"Super." (Did he really say "super"? He's just humouring me.)

"What about the milkshake you had there?"

"Oh, that was nice."

"And that hot dog?"

"Nang!" (That means good.)

Kids and city breaks; I'm not convinced they are a winning combination. Such trips are designed for shopping, sightseeing, relaxing over a meal - leisurely adult pursuits that bore most kids rigid. So I'm surprised - pleased - that mention of this holiday evokes such positive memories. And not just because we're talking about the Ninja Turtles' home town.

But I suspect that Quincy's enthusiasm is no accident. Rather, it is the product of my careful planning. For New York is my favourite foreign city, so I was determined to get it just right.

First, I waited until my son was at least seven so that there would be some hope of him appreciating what he would see (a lesson learnt on previous city trips which had ended up as glorified tours of municipal playgrounds). Next, I chose to stay close to Central Park so that should his little legs have more stamina than could be stamped out on Manhattan's streets and avenues, there would be a convenient stretch of grass to use up those last stubborn drops of energy. And, finally, I constructed an itinerary that guaranteed both parents and child some "me time" each day to stave off the tantrums (especially mine).

At first sight I fretted about my choice of hotel, The Essex House - now prefixed Jumeirah in honour of its latest Middle Eastern owners, who are currently refurbishing it to the tune of $70m (£35m). Its marble lobby is one of the finest examples of an Art Deco interior in Manhattan; a place that I fancy should be frequented by sharp-suited gents and their mink-wearing ladies, not fidgety boys like mine with an eye to ride the bellhop's trolley.

But for all its grandeur, the hotel welcomes children. Kids get to share their parents' room for free; Cartoon Network and computer games are available on the TV; there's a kids' menu; two- to five-year-olds get a pack of munchies on arrival (sure to make their older siblings jealous), and there are bikes for tootling around the park.

Yet it's the location on the southern edge of Central Park that makes the hotel such a recommendable spot for families. (And the strong pound makes such a top address more affordable, for the moment at least.) Only the Green Cross Code stands between you and acres of child-friendly grass. This is also the part of the park where you'll find the Wollman outdoor ice rink (from November to March) and the Central Park Zoo, though our son preferred the simple pleasures of a daily kickabout with his dad on Sheep Meadow.

And while he could have spent his whole holiday in the park, it was possible to drag him out of its gates to explore the rest of Manhattan. The close proximity of New York's premier toy store, FAO Schwarz, provided an alluring "next stop", especially its Ice Cream Parlor, where the milkshakes come family size. The promise of a visit to more child-friendly shops (the Disney Store, a few doors down, is another obvious bribe) ensured a measure of tolerance of our desire to snatch the opportunity to assemble a new dollar-cheap wardrobe - though it didn't prevent the odd game of hide and seek among the rails of some of Fifth Avenue's finest clothing emporia.

Persuading him to go sightseeing was easier than we had expected. After all, he only had to look up at those "big, sharp buildings" to realise he was in quite an extraordinary place. We lost the argument to ascend the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, the viewing platform on the roof of the Rockefeller Center. "It's not that I don't like heights," he assured us. "I just don't feel like it today." (Today being every day of the holiday. Hmm?) But he was enthusiastic about riding a water taxi along the Hudson to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. And we managed to extend the modern history lesson with a visit to Ground Zero. Even getting about - by yellow cab, subway and bicycle rickshaw - offered thrilling new experiences.

But the way to a kid's heart is through their stomach. And one thing New Yorkers know how to do is satisfy appetites, large and small. Our days began with a hearty breakfast at a branch of the Europa café, just around the corner from the hotel; I think our son found the routine, owning a little bit of the city, as attractive as the vast menu. (New York bagels are now a firm favourite.)

And the Brooklyn Diner on West 57th, with its unfeasibly large hot dogs, provided a good choice for dinner not too far from bed. During the day we were able to snack on panini at Bloomingdales' café, Burke in the Box, eat honey-dipped fried chicken at Amy Ruth's in Harlem, and sample the legendary cheesecake at Junior's, just down from Times Square.

I'm not sure it's possible, but I think Quincy might like a return visit to New York almost as much as me.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before